Britain is taking another small step out of lockdown as a new virus surge inundates its European neighbours.
With U.K. coronavirus vaccination rates outstripping those of European Union nations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is easing the stark “stay at home” message that has curtailed everyday life — and kept the virus in check — for almost three months.
From Monday, it will be replaced in England with a message to stay local. People will be allowed to meet in groups of six outdoors and can resume outdoor sports such as basketball, tennis and golf.
The other parts of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are taking broadly similar steps. In Wales, thousands of people poured onto beaches and beauty spots on Saturday, after the authorities lifted travel restrictions that have been in place since December.
While many European nations are seeing a new surge in the pandemic, Britain is counting on a rapid mass-vaccination program to help it end lockdown. Nearly 30 million people, accounting for 56 per cent of all adults, have received a first dose of vaccine so far.
Britain is confident second doses of COVID-19 shots will be administered on time without mixing the type of vaccines, culture minister Oliver Dowden said on Sunday amid concerns over a slowdown in supplies.
The government warned earlier this month that its vaccination program would slow down in April due in part to a delay of a shipment from India’s Serum Institute.
The European Union has also threatened to block vaccine shipments to countries such as the U.K. with higher vaccination rates.
“We have borne in mind that we have to get that second top-up in so we are confident that we will be able to deliver it,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“We are confident that it won’t require mixing of vaccines.”
The U.K. has recorded more than 126,000 COVID-19 deaths, the highest toll in Europe.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 961,088 cases of COVID-19, with 42,025 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,852.
Canada’s chief public health officer warned Saturday that current health orders are not enough to stop rapid growth of COVID-19 as provinces push ahead with plans to reopen their economies.
Longer-range forecast models predict a resurgence of COVID-19 infections unless public health measures are enhanced and strictly followed, Dr. Theresa Tam said in a written statement.
Tam said public health orders across Canada need to be stronger, stricter and sustained long enough to control the rise of variants of concern. High infection rates in the most populous provinces are driving up the country’s average daily case counts, she said.
Alberta reported 688 new COVID-19 cases and an additional death on Saturday.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said 207 of Saturday’s infections are variants of concern and that almost 25 per cent of Alberta’s active COVID-19 cases are variants.
In Saskatchewan, the opposition NDP and a body that represents teachers in the province are calling for faster implementation of rapid tests in schools.
NDP education critic Carla Beck noted some tests were already “on the doorsteps” of some schools in Saskatchewan, but there was still confusion about things like permission forms and procedures for administering them.
WATCH | How businesses and schools use rapid COVID-19 tests:
Manitoba registered 57 more COVID-19 cases and one death on Saturday.
The province also says that it has now administered more than 163,000 vaccine doses and that more than 10 per cent of residents aged 18 or older have received a shot.
Ontario logged 2,453 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day total in more than two months. The province also reported 16 more deaths.
Saturday’s daily case count comes before the province moves Hamilton and Eastern Ontario Health Unit into more restricted areas of its colour-coded reopening framework on Monday. As well, five regions in the province’s grey lockdown zone will see some restrictions loosen on Monday and later in April.
WATCH | Is Ontario ending its COVID-19 lockdowns too early?:
Quebec confirmed 1,009 new cases and eight deaths. It’s the first time in a month and a half that the province’s saw more than 1,000 new infections in a single day.
New Brunswick reported 12 new cases on Saturday, all in the Edmundston region.
The province’s northwest remains under tightened restrictions following a spike in variant cases. The area was moved from yellow to red for a four-day “circuit breaker” on Thursday.
Prince Edward Island will open its first mass vaccination clinics on Monday.
The clinics in Charlottetown and Summerside are for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, as opposed to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which is being distributed in pharmacies to younger Islanders who must work with the public.
Nova Scotia confirmed five new cases, all in the central health zone. The new cases are close contacts of previously reported cases, including one probable case reported on Friday at Sackville Heights Junior High in Lower Sackville.
In a news release, Premier Iain Rankin said a mobile testing unit will be set up in the Sackville region on Saturday and Sunday.
Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new infections. Effective midnight Saturday, the entire province will move to Alert Level 2, allowing households to keep a “steady 20” group of consistent contacts.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 126.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, which runs a coronavirus case-tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.7 million.
In the Americas, Mexico’s government is acknowledging that the country’s true death toll from the coronavirus pandemic now stands above 321,000. That is almost 60 per cent more than the government’s official test-confirmed number of 201,429. Mexico does little testing, and because hospitals were overwhelmed, many Mexicans died at home without getting a test. The only way to get a clear picture is to review “excess deaths” and review death certificates.
The government quietly published such a report, indicating there were 294,287 deaths linked to COVID-19 from the start of the pandemic through Feb. 14. Since Feb. 15 there have been an additional 26,772 test-confirmed deaths.
In Europe, Ukraine is grappling with a surge in COVID-19 infections. A record number of Ukrainians were taken to hospital with COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Sunday. Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on Facebook 5,052 people had been hospitalized in the past day. The minister has linked the worsening of the situation to the spread of the coronavirus variant first found in Britain, which was detected in Ukraine in late February, amid a slow pace of vaccination.
In France, a group of critical care doctors say surging coronavirus infections could soon overwhelm their ability to care for the sick in the hospitals of Paris, possibly forcing them to choose which patients to treat. The warning of “catastrophic medicine” was delivered Sunday in a newspaper opinion piece signed by 41 Paris-region doctors. Published by Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper, it comes as President Emmanuel Macron has been vigorously defending his decision not to completely lock down France again as he did last year. Since January, Macron’s government has instead imposed a nationwide overnight curfew and followed that with a grab-bag of other restrictions.
In Africa, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta restricted travel in the capital Nairobi and four other counties as infections hit record levels in East Africa’s richest economy.
In Asia, Pakistani Minister for Planning and Development Asada Umar said disregard for precautionary measures has led to a sudden rapid increase in the country, and he warned of strict actions if people don’t follow guidelines to counter the spread of the virus.
Canada employment regains pre-pandemic levels in September – Canada Immigration News
Canada’s economy gained 157,000 jobs last month, bringing the employment rate to within a percentage point of pre-pandemic levels.
Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey captured the Canadian labour market for the week of September 12 to 18. That week, several provinces had introduced proof-of-vaccination requirements to enter certain non-essential venues like gyms and restaurants.
The employment rate is the number of employed people as a percentage of the population age 15 and over. In September, Canada’s employment rate was 60.9 per cent, still 0.9 per cent under the February 2020 rate as a result of population growth.
The unemployment rate declined for the fourth consecutive month in September, falling to 6.9 per cent, the lowest rate since the onset of the pandemic.
Employment continues to increase for very recent immigrants
The employment rate among very recent immigrants continued on an upward trend, reaching 71 per cent last month.
Although the overall population of newcomers has not grown over the course of the pandemic, the number of very recent immigrants working in some industries has grown. Namely, in professional, scientific, and technical services, as well as finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing. These two industries have had sustained employment growth throughout the pandemic.
Immigrants who have been in Canada for more than five years saw an employment rate of nearly 59 per cent, which is down about one percentage point from September 2019. People born in Canada had an employment rate of about 61 per cent, down two percentage points in the same time frame.
White collar sectors ahead while blue collar lags behind
The services-producing sector surpassed its pre-COVID employment level for the first time. The increases were led by public administration, information, culture and recreation, and professional, scientific and technical services.
By contrast, some industries such as accommodation and food services has yet to return to the employment levels seen in February 2020. This is partially due to the industry being heavily affected by public health measures. This September employment in food services fell for the first time in five months. Employment in retail also declined.
The goods-producing sector saw little change overall, which has been the case since it lost 94,000 jobs between April and June. Manufacturing and natural resources were the exceptions, both industries saw some employment growth in September.
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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca
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In Europe, protests erupted in Italy on Friday as one of the most stringent anti-coronavirus measures in Europe went into effect, requiring all workers, from magistrates to maids, to show a health pass to get into their place of employment.
Police were out in force, some schools ended classes early and embassies issued warnings of possible violence amid concerns that the anti-vaccination demonstrations could turn into riots, as they did in Rome last weekend.
But by day’s end, the protests appeared to have been largely peaceful, including one at Rome’s central Circus Maximus where some protesters gave police officers flowers in a sign they meant no harm.
The green pass shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months. Italy already required the pass to access all sorts of indoor environments, including restaurants, museums, theaters, and long-distance trains.
But the addition of the workplace requirement has sparked heated debate and opposition in a country that was a coronavirus epicentre early in the pandemic but has kept the latest resurgence in check through continued mask mandates and one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe.
The new rule in a country that imposed the first COVID-19 lockdown and production shutdown in the West imposes a burden on worker and employer alike. Electronic scanners that can read cellphone QR codes with the green pass were set up at bigger places of employment, such as the office of Italian Premier Mario Draghi and the headquarters of state railway company Trenitalia.
Sanctions for employers who fail to check employees range from 400 to 1,000 euros ($575 to $1,437 Cdn). A worker who fails to show a valid pass is considered absent without justification and could face fines from 600 to 1,500 euros ($862 to $2,155 Cdn).
The aim of the requirement is to encourage vaccination rates to rise beyond the current 81 per cent of the population over age 12 who are fully inoculated. And if recent days are any indication, it was working: The number of first shots administered Thursday rose 34 per cent compared to the beginning of the week, Italy’s virus czar reported Friday.
But for those people who can’t or won’t get their shots, the expanded pass requirement imposes a burden of getting tested every 48 hours just to be able to go to work. People with a proven medical condition that prevents them being vaccinated are exempt.
Some employers are offering free tests at work, but the government has refused calls to make testing free across the board. Currently rapid tests run from eight euros ($11.50 Cdn) for children to 15 euros ($21.55 Cdn) for adults.
For some opponents, the requirement is disproportionate to the current need: Italy has kept the latest delta variant-fuelled resurgence largely under control through continued mask use and physical distancing, reporting around 67 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks.
But proponents say the requirement will keep workplaces safe and allow Italy’s economy, which shrank 8.9 per cent last year, to further rebound.
What’s happening in Canada
- P.E.I. logs 3 new cases, including a child under 12 years of age.
- N.S. reports 18 new cases, bringing province’s active caseload to 199.
What’s happening around the world
As of Friday, more than 239.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.8 million.
In the Americas, hundreds of white flags were put up in front of Brazil’s Congress on Friday, to protest more than 600,000 COVID-19 deaths in the country — the second highest toll in the world behind the U.S.
In Asia, South Korean officials will partially ease virus restrictions in the hard-hit capital region starting next week to address a battered economy and pandemic fatigue.
In Africa, South Africa will start vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 17 next week using the Pfizer vaccine, the health minister said.
Elsewhere in Europe, COVID-19 tests in France are no longer free for unvaccinated adults unless they are prescribed by a doctor.
U.S. to lift curbs from Nov. 8 for vaccinated foreign travelers – White House
The White House on Friday said it will lift COVID-19 travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nationals effective Nov. 8, ending historic restrictions that barred much of the world from the United States.
Restrictions on non-U.S. citizens were first imposed on air travelers from China in January 2020 by then-President Donald Trump and then extended to dozens of other countries, without any clear metrics for how and when to lift them.
Curbs on non-essential travelers at land borders with Mexico and Canada have been in place since March 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reuters first reported Friday’s announcement of the Nov. 8 starting date earlier in the day.
U.S. airline, hotel and cruise industry stocks rose on the news, including American Airlines, up 1.9%; Marriott International Inc, up 2.2%; and Carnival Corp, up 1.3%.
The United States had lagged many other countries in lifting such restrictions, and allies welcomed the move. The U.S. restrictions have barred travelers from most of the world, including tens of thousands of foreign nationals with relatives or business links in the United States.
The White House on Tuesday announced it would lift restrictions at its land borders and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November. They are similar but not identical to requirements announced last month for international air travelers.
Unvaccinated visitors will still be barred from entering the United States from Canada or Mexico at land borders.
Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for non-essential travel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Reuters last week the United States will accept the use by international visitors of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization.
The White House, which held a meeting late Thursday to finalize the Nov. 8 date, still faces some remaining questions, including how and what exemptions the Biden administration will grant to the vaccine requirements. Children under 18, for example, are largely expected to be exempt from the requirements, an official said.
U.S. Travel Association Chief Executive Roger Dow said in a statement that the Nov. 8 date “is critically important for planning – for airlines, for travel-supported businesses, and for millions of travelers worldwide who will now advance plans to visit the United States once again.”
The White House announced on Sept. 20 that the United States would lift restrictions on air travelers from 33 countries in early November. It did not specify the date at the time.
Starting Nov. 8, the United States will admit fully vaccinated foreign air travelers from the 26 so-called Schengen countries in Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Greece, as well as Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. The unprecedented U.S. restrictions have barred non-U.S. citizens who were in those countries within the past 14 days.
The United States has allowed foreign air travelers from more than 150 countries throughout the pandemic, a policy that critics said made little sense because some countries with high COVID-19 rates were not on the restricted list, while some on the list had the pandemic more under control.
The White House said last month it would apply vaccine requirements to foreign nationals traveling from all other countries.
Non-U.S. air travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding a flight, and will need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Foreign visitors crossing a land border will not need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.
The new rules do not require foreign visitors or Americans entering the country to go into quarantine.
Americans traveling overseas must still show proof of a recent negative COVID-19, and unvaccinated Americans will face stricter COVID-19 testing requirements. They will also be subject to restrictions in the countries they plan to visit, which may include quarantines.
The CDC plans to soon issue new rules on contact tracing for international air travelers.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by John Stonestreet, Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis)
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